ROBERTO DI MATTEO
Roberto Di Matteo was signed from Lazio in the summer of 1996 for a club record fee at the time of £4.9m as Chelsea looked to make the break through and challenge for honours. At the time Robbie was a current Italian international and at the age of 26, approaching the peak of his powers.
Di Matteo made a great start to his Chelsea career, scoring the winner against Middlesbrough in his home debut but it was the manner of his celebration that was best remembered as he coolly lay down on the pitch next to his team mates and posed for the cameras.
In his first season at the club Robbie scored nine goals, mostly from long-range shots. The most significant came after just 43 seconds of the 1997 FA Cup Final, a record at the old Wembley. A year later he scored in the League Cup Final victory, and in 2000 completed a hat-trick by scoring the only goal of the FA Cup Final. In doing so, he became only the second Chelsea player to score in three different cup finals.
Robbie was also central to our success in the European Cup Winners' Cup and our run to the Champions League quarter-finals, but sadly he suffered a triple leg fracture in a Uefa Cup tie in September 2000. After 18 months of battling the injury, he was forced to retire at the age of just 31.
He returned to the club in 2011, initially as assistant coach to Andre Villas-Boas but then as interim manager in March 2012 when the Portuguese was dismissed. Robbie further enhanced his legend status by soon winning the FA Cup final against Liverpool, and then most spectacularly of all by securing our first Champions League title by defeating Bayern Munich in their own home. His time in charge of Chelsea came to an end in November 2012.